I've been reading up as much as I can on S scale in whatever spare time I've had over the past few days. I've come to the conclusion that S scale has a serious chicken or the egg problem. What I mean is I think if more product were offered more people would get into S scale and the flip side is if more people got into S scale then the manufacturers would offer more product. One of them has to come first for the scale to grow, but which one?
I've become friends with a few guys on a slot car forum and I told one of them, who was a former model railroader, that I was thinking about going into S scale. I didn't try to talk him into it in any manner but he said, "I looked into S scale a few years ago, but the lack of RTR stuff stopped me from buying it. I think I will eventually get back into HO, but if more things are released RTR in S maybe I would go that way." This lead me to the chicken or the egg theory.
Somewhere, I can't remember where, I read something to the effect that when the HO guys get really old and they can't see anymore they will move up to S. I heard the same thing in O scale. Now this is me being negative again but by and large I don't see this happening all that often. So what does an HO guy do when he gets too old to see the trains? I'm not sure but I would bet that the minority will go to a larger scale. Why not? Well, (these are my guesses) number one especially for O scale, he may not have the room for it, and number two again this is really for O scale, he may not like the prices of the locomotives and cars as compared to HO, and number 3 for both O and S you are asking him to sell off everything he has which, if he is an older guy is usually quite a lot. This is hard for a lot of people to do and it can be a real hassle. It is one of the main reasons I haven't jumped into S scale so far. I have over 30 locomotives in various states of conversion to 2 rail and conversion from DC/DCS/TMCC to DCC. I've always wanted to finish these projects someday now I would have to abandon them. On the other hand that isn't all that bad of an idea! I read in The Dispatch [Feb '07] I wish I had a dime for every time some modeler in another scale has said "if only I didn't have so much invested in XYZ scale, I'd switch to 'S'"! I'm sure you've heard the same thing!" It's true though. It's a big thing, at least for me, to sell everything and start over.
I went to a HO club a few Christmases ago and I remember there being a few older guys there. I didn't get the impression that they had any thoughts of changing scales.
I mentioned above that some guys may balk when they hear the price of O scale. I am exactly the opposite. I would rather pay $1,100 for a well built larger well detailed steam locomotive in O scale then pay $400 for similar steam engine in HO. Why? because when I look at the HO engine I feel like I paid $400 for this tiny little thing? I feel ripped off kind of. With the O scale engine I still feel a little like it is over priced but I don't feel as ripped off.
I've been looking closely at the AM steam engines and they remind me of the Williams brass models of the early '90s. Good dependable models but void of any real detail. Still I don't think they are a bad deal for the price.
What I find strange is that there are no 0-6-0s or 0-8-0s in S scale. These are everywhere in O scale and were very common locomotives on the prototype.
You've made a very perceptive observation about S, Phil. But, I can tell you that had not Ron Bashista of American Models not taken the chance, no matter how hard my freind would have tried, I wouldn't have come up to S. So in my case, AM was the chicken, (or was AM the egg?)
I finally did have to close my eyes and haul the bulk of my HO to a hobby shop willing to buy it. I'm sure I took a beating, but that wasn't my concern, I wanted to make a relatively clean break.
As to us coots, when we get older and eyesight and perhaps dexterity declines, it's a tough call. Perhaps the bulk of HO'ers just ease into the armchair, content with what they've done and just follow the magazines. I don't know what I'll do when the situation arises, I'll burn that bridge when I'm standing on it.
If you added up the employees of AM, SHS and SSA, I don't think you'd come up with a number of employees in total that equal what Lionel or MTH have, and steam Locomotives are an expensive and complicated proposition. The SHS 2-8-0 faced many delays and took more resources than Don Thompson realized. I'm sure both Don T and Ron B figured a road steam locomotive was a more saleable proposition. And there'd be the usual cry, "but you can get a Flyer one..."
S Gaugers tend to circle the boxcars when something is announced. There's always been a "gentleman's agreement" not to do something major that someone else has done. Almost every time I bring up a USRA light Mike, someone invariably says "Overland already did one. (yeah, 20+ years ago...) You can still find one..." Now that MTH and Lionel are more engaged in S, that agreement is finally gone.